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Why Is Apple Hiring This Former Ford Exec?

If you’ve been tracking Apple’s ambitious plans for a fully autonomous vehicle over the years, then you know the project’s status seems to be perpetually on and off; regardless, now all signs point to an Apple Car comeback. Reports indicate Apple is adding automaker-specific regulatory expertise with the hiring of long-time Ford executive Desi Ujkashevic.

Apple’s plan for an in-house, truly self-driving vehicle, has seen a revolving door of high-profile executives come and go since its inception around 2014. The recent departure of Doug Fields, Apple’s former Vice President of Special Projects, further illustrates this.

Who Is Desi Ujkashevic?

According to Bloomberg, Apple’s latest recruit is a seasoned veteran within the automotive industry. According to Desi Ujkashevic’s bio on Ford’s website, the beginning of her stint with the company dates back to 1991. Ujkashevic was initially recruited as a Ford College Graduate in Product Development. Her most recent role at Ford is likely what swayed Apple to go forward with the hire, as she was the global director of automotive safety engineering which also encompasses their work on autonomous vehicles.

If Apple is set on moving forward with its rumored Apple Car project it will benefit from Ujkashevic’s vast experience as an executive at a traditional automaker. She will be especially helpful when it’s time to navigate any automotive industry-specific issues or regulations that Apple might not be fully familiarized with.


Apple Is No Stranger to Cars

Apple’s top-secret “Project Titan” dates back to late 2014. The years following the project’s inception have been plagued by massive layoffs, leadership struggling to establish a clear vision for the project, and a constant reshuffling of upper management. Bob Mansfield, Steve Zadesky, and Doug Field are all big-name executives that are no longer involved with Apple’s ambitious project.

Kevin Lynch, head of the Apple Watch team, is currently at the helm of the effort at the moment. The core philosophy of the Apple Car has also fluctuated over the years, at times leaning towards the development of autonomous technology instead of a full-fledged vehicle. Apple’s recent hiring of Desi Ujkashevic certainly points toward a paradigm shift that favors building a complete vehicle in-house.

It remains to be seen if the Apple Car’s latest reboot will produce tangible results soon, especially considering how heated the EV sector is at the moment, with strong offerings from the likes of Tesla and Ford, as well as BMW and Hyundai. Apple would also have to tackle the issue of setting up a gigantic charging infrastructure capable of serving its vehicles and competing with the likes of Tesla’s robust Supercharger network.

Although perhaps Apple is proactively searching for solutions to all of these major hurdles in the form of partnerships. There have been multiple uncorroborated rumors that Apple has tried to land a partnership with an established automaker; most notably, alleged talks with Hyundai on a potential partnership to work on the Apple car, as reported by 9to5Mac. Of course, the public has yet to see any tangible results materialize from the craziness floating in the rumor mill, and at the moment nothing has been made official by Apple.

Perhaps Apple is hoping someone with Desi Ujkashevic’s vast automotive industry experience can help them when it’s time to negotiate with big automotive industry players.

Apple’s Automotive Future Is Uncertain

Regardless of the path Apple chooses for its Apple Car, it’s clear that they are invested in disrupting the automotive sector, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they managed to revolutionize the entire game. Amidst all the uncertainty and secrecy surrounding the Apple Car, the hiring of a top executive from a traditional automaker could serve as the steadying force the project might need to springboard towards completion.

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